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14 NEGLECTED GOTHIC HORROR STORIES

Halloween Month continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at some of the neglected literary horror tales I’ve reviewed.

ensouled violin picTHE ENSOULED VIOLIN (1880) – Written by THE Madame Blavatsky. A gifted Austrian violin player named Franz Stenio is drawn to occult studies while away at college. Hearing dark legends about how Niccolo Paganini supposedly acquired his otherworldly skill with the violin, Franz carries out some of the rumored rituals in real life, to bloody and deadly effect. The fallout is horrific. CLICK HERE.  

CITY OF VAMPIRES (1867) – Written by Paul Feval. This criminally neglected story depicts a fictionalized young version of the Gothic horror writer Ann Radcliffe when she was still Ann Ward. To try to save some friends she trails them to the Belgrade city of vampires called Selene as well as the Sepulchre. In that perpetually gloomy and overcast village Ann and company must deal with vampires of varied abilities from back in the era before vampire lore was as set in stone as it later became. CLICK HERE

werwolvesTHE WERWOLVES (1898) – Written by Honore Beaugrand. A pack of werewolves prey upon victims in Canada. Plenty of unusual takes on lycanthrope lore with a north of the border touch. These particular werewolves are of Iroquois extraction which, along with the cold and snowy backdrop, helps to make this Canadian horror tale stand out from the rest. CLICK HERE. Continue reading

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS FROM OCTOBER 2nd

HEADLINES

Charleston Golden Eagles helmet NEWTOPPLING NUMBER SIX – In NCAA Division Two, the UNIVERSITY OF CHARLESTON GOLDEN EAGLES played host to the number 6 team in the nation – the NOTRE DAME COLLEGE FALCONS (School Motto: “No, not THAT Notre Dame”). The Golden Eagles put the Falcons on Upset Alert with a 17-14 Halftime lead and ultimately won the game 38-28.

West Alabama Tigers helmet NEWNUMBER NINE FALLS, TOO – Staying in D2 for a moment, the 23rd ranked UNIVERSITY OF WEST ALABAMA TIGERS took it on the road against the country’s number 9 UNIVERSITY OF WEST GEORGIA WOLVES. A 24-17 lead for the Tigers at the break ended up in a 38-20 Upset victory for them.   

erskine flying fleetHISTORY IN THE NCCAA – The ERSKINE COLLEGE FLYING FLEET, in their very first year of intercollegiate football, notched their first ever victory yesterday. It came against their guests the VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY OF LYNCHBURG DRAGONS. The Flying Fleet were chasing the Dragons 7-3 in the opening Quarter but were on top 24-7 come Halftime. They never looked back on their way to a 59-13 blowout. Continue reading

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SPIDER-MAN: 1970s CLASSICS PART SIX

Here’s Part Six of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.

spider man 132SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #132 (May 1974)

Title: The Master Plan of the Molten Man

Villain: The Molten Man

Synopsis: With Peter Parker’s Aunt May finally out of the clutches of Doctor Octopus and being taken care of by her new roommate Anna Watson (Mary Jane’s aunt), Peter as Spider-Man is swinging his way around New York City one night a few weeks later.  He comes across a few cops investigating a strange break-in at the Metropolitan Museum.

Clinging to the ceiling and staying out of the way of the investigating officers, Spider-Man goes unnoticed as the investigation reveals that the break-in was committed by a supervillain who could burst through walls as well as melt locks and leave burned-in footprints in the floor. The thief stole meteor fragments from one of the displays then left.

Just as Spider-Man realizes this must have been the work of his old foe Molten Man, whom he fought two times previously, the cops notice him and open fire. At this time our hero is still wanted in regard to a pair of murders – of Captain John Stacy and Norman Osborn. (He won’t be cleared for years.) Continue reading

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THE OLD GODS WAKEN (1979): HALLOWEEN MONTH BEGINS

Silver John

Silver John

THE OLD GODS WAKEN (1979) – Another Halloween Month begins here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at the first novel featuring Manly Wade Wellman’s iconic Pulp Hero Silver John. In 2011 I reviewed all of Wellman’s short stories and vignettes about this figure. The Old Gods Waken was the first of five Silver John novels.

For newcomers to these tales I’ll point out that Silver John aka John the Balladeer was a wandering guitar player in the Appalachian Mountain communities of yore. He would do battle with assorted supernatural menaces from mountain folklore like a combination of Kolchak and Orpheus. John’s silver guitar strings and silver coins were powerful repellants against much of the evils he faced down.

For more details on this neglected fictional hero click HERE or HERE or HERE. If you want an easy comparison the Silver John stories were based on the same type of mountain/ country folklore about music and the supernatural that the song The Devil Went Down To Georgia was based on.

silver john another coverThe Old Gods Waken deals with Silver John performing with other musicians at a music festival, then getting drawn into a property line dispute between the Forshay family and two sinister British men calling themselves Brummitt and Hooper Voth. As usual in our hero’s travels there are dark supernatural forces at work behind this boundary dispute – forces ultimately dealing with Pre-Columbian entities and transplanted Druidism.

I enjoy the Silver John short works far more than the novels and this book reflects plenty of reasons why. If The Old Gods Waken is a reader’s first exposure to the wandering balladeer then they might like it much better than I do based on the strength of the character and Manly Wade Wellman’s ear for old mountain dialects. As for me, I’ll explore the reasons why I think this novel embodies all the shortcomings of the (still very good) long form Silver John adventures.    Continue reading

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ROLLER BLADE (1986): POST-APOCALYPSE PAP

roller bladeROLLER BLADE (1986) – They’re the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blade and they’re female Jedi Knights on roller skates. Well, sort of. Where does one begin when reviewing this film that is so beloved by all of us fans of bad movies? Let’s start with the setting and then tackle the characters as well as Roller Blade’s legendary director Donald G Jackson (R.I.P.). 

This film is set in the future during The Second Dark Age, years after humanity’s “energy weapons” have unleashed an apocalypse which has left the world a ravaged mess of ruined cities yet immaculately maintained roads and highways. Go figure.

Amid the usual tableau of feral gangs and predatory mutants there stands a force for good dedicated to rebuilding the world: a religious order of warrior nuns called the Cosmic Order of the Roller Blade … Even though none of them wear actual roller blades, just regular roller skates. 

skate or die“Skate or Die” is the ugly motto of the survivors in this kill or be killed future. That’s because the filmmakers absurdly pretend that traveling via roller skates or skateboards is the only way to move swiftly enough to have a chance of evading the dangerous gangs and mutants.

If you have any goods or supplies that you are taking with you the only way to transport them is in metal grocery carts that can roll along with you as you skate through the post-apocalyptic landscape. I’m not joking. This grocery cart nonsense is another idiotic element that the movie takes 100% seriously despite how inane it looks. 

Our characters:

Mother SpeedMOTHER SPEED (Katina Garner) – The Mother Superior of the Order of the Roller Blade. She is in a wheelchair yet still wears roller skates on her feet since such skates are part of the Order’s sacred garments. Mother Speed, like all the good guys in Roller Blade, speaks in grandiose faux-Shakespearean littered with “thees” and “thous” and “yea, verilies.” ESPECIALLY “yea, verilies.” 

Making Mother Speed even more fun is the way she speaks with a weird accent that makes her sound like popular 1980s sex therapist Dr Ruth Westheimer. Continue reading

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL RESULTS FROM SEPTEMBER 25th

HEADLINES

Bethel (TN) WildcatsNUMBER SIX TAKES A FALL – In the NAIA the BETHEL (TN) WILDCATS played host to the nation’s number 6 team – the REINHARDT UNIVERSITY EAGLES (should be the Rottweilers). In this tale of two Halves the Wildcats were on top 21-0 by the midpoint. In the 2nd Half a furious Reinhardt University rally fell just short as Bethel U won out 34-33.

HillsdaleHILLSDALE HOME STAND – The storied HILLSDALE COLLEGE CHARGERS took the field against the visiting MISSOURI S&T MINERS. The Miners led the Chargers 10-7 in the opening Quarter and 24-17 at Halftime. The 3rd Quarter ended with Missouri S&T in front 31-24 before Hillsdale College came back in the 4th for a 38-31 victory. 

Harding Bisons helmetDOWN GOES NUMBER SEVEN – NCAA Division Two’s 22nd ranked HARDING UNIVERSITY BISON welcomed the number 7 team in the nation – the OUACHITA BAPTIST UNIVERSITY TIGERS. A 14-7 1st Quarter edge for the Bison became a 24-7 advantage by the Half. After the break both teams scored 14 more points as Harding University upset OBU 38-21. Continue reading

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SPIDER-MAN: 1970s CLASSICS PART FIVE

Here’s Part Five of Spider-Man 1970s Classics, in which readers finally learn what lies behind the whole Dr Octopus/ Aunt May/ Canada storyline. For Part One click HERE.

spider man number 129SPIDER-MAN Vol 1 #129 (February 1974)

Title: The Punisher Strikes Twice

Villains: The Punisher and the Jackal

NOTE: I skipped over the less than classic Spider-Man #s 127 and 128, which featured a rushed, poorly written story about our hero fighting a scientist who accidentally mutated himself into a copy of Spidey’s frequent foe the Vulture.

              In issue 127 some subplots moved along, so here’s a recap – Spider-Man and his friend the Human Torch (Johnny Storm) of the Fantastic Four continued working on the Spider-Mobile that our hero will get paid for since Corona Motors’ new pollution free engine will be running it.

              Meanwhile, Peter Parker and his roommate Harry Osborn had an ugly argument about their strained relationship since Harry’s father died. Peter does not yet know that Harry is the one who removed Norman Osborn’s Green Goblin costume from his dead body before the police arrived. Thanks to the documents that Norman had on his person, Harry now knows that Peter is really Spider-Man and – in his drug-addicted mind – thinks Peter intentionally killed his father.

              Lastly, Professor Miles Warren, Peter Parker’s bio-chemistry instructor and academic advisor at Empire State University, had a terse talk with Peter about how he has let his grief over Gwen Stacy’s death seriously jeopardize his grades. Now, on with issue 129.

jackal and punisher splash pageSynopsis: In a laboratory hideout are two costumed men, the Jackal and the Punisher, BOTH making their first ever appearances. The Punisher, the now-legendary vigilante who got multiple movies long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was launched, is blowing apart statues of Spider-Man with high-tech, specially designed rifles and machine-guns paid for by the Jackal.

Though the Punisher usually works alone, the Jackal has talked him into an alliance against Spider-Man, whom the Jackal wants dead for as yet unknown reasons. The Punisher wants Spider-Man dead because this was when our hero was wanted in regard to two murders – Captain John Stacy and Norman Osborn.

Elsewhere that night, Spider-Man defeats four armed robbers hijacking a truck, while having Peter Parker’s camera set to automatically snap photos of the action. The next morning, as Peter, he shows up at the Daily Bugle with the pics. Continue reading

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DUSTY’S TRAIL (1973-1974): FORGOTTEN TELEVISION

dusty's trailDUSTY’S TRAIL (1973-1974) – Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip … But not THAT one. Dusty’s Trail was an uninspired, unfunny attempt by Sherwood Schwartz to recapture the success of his famed sitcom Gilligan’s Island.

Demonstrating “Minimum Effort Puppy” levels of laziness, Schwartz shamelessly copied every single aspect of Gilligan’s Island and its memorable – if moronic – characters over to the Old West. With Dusty’s Trail, Schwartz managed to cadge everything but the laughs from his 1960s hit.

bob denverGilligan’s Island featured seven castaways trapped on a desert island because of the mind-numbing stupidity of their charter ship’s First Mate – Gilligan. Dusty’s Trail featured seven members of a wagon train hopelessly lost on their way to California because of the mind-numbing stupidity of their expedition’s Scout – Dusty.

On both shows the imbecile whose repeated blunders doomed his party’s efforts to save themselves over and over again was played by Bob Denver. In real life the other stranded people would have killed Gilligan or Dusty very early on, but these were just sitcoms, so both mentally impaired losers were permitted to live.  Continue reading

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ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION: DOCTOR HACKENSAW’S SECRETS, CONCLUSION

Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the remaining short stories featuring Doctor Hackensaw and his supporting cast of reporter Silas Rockett, teen girl Pep Perkins and precocious boy Tintangeles Smith. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE.

secret of the invisible girlTHE SECRET OF THE SUPER-TELESCOPE (August 1923) – Doctor Hackensaw’s new invention, a super-telescope, provides the most detailed looks at Earth’s moon ever seen. A secret civilization is detected and photographed. NOTE: This is the start of the first serialized Hackensaw storyline. 

A CAR FOR THE MOON (September 1923) – Dr H and his perky teen sidekick Pep Perkins head for the moon on an interplanetary “car” invented by the wild genius. The space vehicle reaches escape velocity by first being whirled around and around on a Ferris Wheel type of device, then released.

DR HACKENSAW’S TRIP TO THE MOON (October 1923) – On their way to the moon, the doctor and his Girl Friday Pep Perkins deal with the traumas of weightlessness. Pep worries about a false murder charge awaiting her back on Earth if they ever get back. Continue reading

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SPIDER-MAN : 1970s CLASSICS PART FOUR

Here’s Part Four of Spider-Man 1970s Classics. For Part One click HERE.

daredevil 103DAREDEVIL & THE BLACK WIDOW Vol 1 #103 (September 1973)

Title: Then Came Ramrod

Villain: Ramrod

Synopsis: In a rare moment of kindness, Daily Bugle publisher J Jonah Jameson has sent Peter Parker to San Francisco to photograph and interview Daredevil and the Black Widow, who were at the time operating as crime-fighting partners like Captain America and the Falcon back in New York City. The Black Widow was also romantically involved with Daredevil in his secret identity of blind lawyer Matt Murdock.

NOTE: The Black Widow and Matt Murdock were currently a major San Francisco power couple (this was back before San Francisco was filled with human waste matter and drug needles). Because this is a comic book nobody figured out that Natasha’s man Matt Murdock was also her superhero partner Daredevil, who conveniently moved to the West Coast at the same time Murdock did.

In his Spider-Man costume, Peter Parker photographs the BW & DD swinging back into Natasha’s San Fran mansion. Daredevil was swinging on his billy club cable line and the Black Widow was swinging on the slender black weblines that her wristlets shot out.

NOTE: Natasha’s wristlets also shot powerful rays called her Widow’s Sting, too, and her costume let her cling to buildings and ceilings like Spider-Man did but none of those cool attributes of her costume were ever used in the Marvel Comics movies. Instead, she just shot guns. Lame.   

dd bw and smBack to the story, Spidey switches to Peter Parker and enters the mansion’s grounds. He shows his press pass to get past Ivan Petrovich, Natasha’s chauffer back then. (Natasha was still rich through her inheritance from White Russian family members.)

Spider-Man and Daredevil by this point knew each other’s secret identities, but Black Widow does NOT know that Peter is really Spider-Man. Peter is still mourning Gwen Stacy and feels sorrow over the way Daredevil has a woman who can share in his superhero life the way the non-powered Gwen could never have shared in his.

DD and the Black Widow give Peter a tour of the mansion as he snaps photos along the way. After awhile, Peter feels his Spider-Sense tingling but before he can do anything, a supervillain calling himself Ramrod bursts through the mansion’s walls. He is there to steal secret documents from Matt Murdock’s safe, papers he is holding for his client Rolling Stone Magazine. Continue reading

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